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Avi Lewis

Avi Lewis speaks during a #CanadaOnFire demonstration in Squamish, British Columbia on September 8, 2021. (Photo: Samuel Foss/350 Canada)

Avi Lewis Hoping Canadians' Climate Concerns Deliver Electoral 'Upset of Epic Proportions'

"We need to send Avi to Ottawa to shake up the entire political establishment, including his own party, and tip the scales in favor of people and the planet," said environmentalist David Suzuki.

Brett Wilkins

As Canadians head to the polls Monday on the final day of federal elections, a journalist, documentary filmmaker, and climate activist in British Columbia is hoping his plan to take aggressive action to combat the climate emergency will resonate with enough voters to score an upset victory.

"The entire political system is failing to confront the level of emergency that we have."
—Avi Lewis,
NDP candidate

Avi Lewis, the New Democratic Party's (NDP) candidate for the House of Commons for the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country riding, knows his is a longshot campaign. The social democratic NDP—which finished a distant fourth place there in the 2019 election—has never held the seat in the riding, one of Canada's wealthiest, and a Liberal stronghold.

"We're in an uphill battle to pull off an upset of epic proportions," Lewis told CBC News Sunday.

However, Lewis—who is the third generation of his family to enter politics—believes he can flip the riding from the Liberals, the party of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, by running on a Green New Deal platform that addresses the most pressing issues facing Canada today: the climate crisis and inequality.

"The entire political system is failing to confront the level of emergency that we have and embrace the level of opportunity in housing and health and transit and all the related systems that need changing," he added.

International climate campaigners including Canadian environmental activist David Suzuki and co-founder Bill McKibben have joined activists, artists, and intellectuals such as Jane Fonda, Alexandra Morton, Mike Douglas, Yan Martel, and Sara Quin in endorsing Lewis due to his strong stance on climate action. 

In 2015, Lewis, along with his wife—the author, activist, and filmmaker Naomi Klein—and others published The Leap Manifesto, a bold call to action on climate and inequality spearheaded by a coalition of Indigenous leaders, labor unions, and environmentalists that was signed by more than 50,000 Canadians and whose principles were adopted by the NDP in 2016.

However, activists have criticized what they call the NDP's vague and inadequate climate policies, including the party's support for fossil fuel projects and its refusal to condemn fracking.

Unlike NDP leadership, Lewis has been unafraid to demand a halt to destructive projects, including the government-owned Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion. Both Trudeau's government and the Conservative Party opposition staunchly support the fossil fuel industry, which accounts for more than 5% of Canada's gross domestic product. Canada is the only G7 nation whose greenhouse gas emissions have increased since the Paris climate agreement was signed in 2015, mainly due to the extraction of tar sands oil, the world's dirtiest fuel.

Mike Simpson, the Green Party candidate running for the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country parliamentary seat, has resisted pressure to step down and support Lewis. However, Lewis' stong stance on climate action has earned him the support of many Green Party members and voters.

"We need to send Avi to Ottawa," Suzuki asserted in an endorsement video featuring prominent British Columbian Greens, "to shake up the entire political establishment, including his own party, and tip the scales in favor of people and the planet."

Lewis' candidacy comes during a summer in which British Columbians suffered some of the world's hottest temperatures, as well as devastating wildfires. Provincial authorities said extreme heat claimed 569 lives between June 20 and July 29.

After the village of Lytton recorded a Canadian record temperature of 49.6°C (121.3°F) on June 30—surpassing all-time highs in desert cities including Las Vegas and Tucson, Arizona—it was destroyed by a massive wildfire.

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